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Deciding What You Need When Building a Extension

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 1 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Extension Build Budget Neighbour

Building an extension on to your house sounds like a great idea, but it's worth taking the time to get it right. It's often cheaper than moving, particularly now that so many homes are now in higher stamp duty brackets, as you can build a pretty good extension for just the tax on the new house. The problem is deciding what to put where, how big it can be and what use you will make of it.

Although it's tempting to think of an extension in terms of the design first, the results will suit your purpose better if you can put that out of your mind and draw up a list of your needs. Go around the house at the moment and look at the places where you're bursting out at the seams, and ask yourself questions about the way you live now and want to in the future.

Interrogate Yourself

If you have growing children and perhaps more on the way, is bedroom space a priority? Or perhaps you have enough bedrooms but you need more space downstairs so that all the members of the family can get on with their entertainment, hobbies, work or studies without tripping over each other and causing arguments? Perhaps an open plan kitchen/dining area with room for a sofa and television will allow you to get on with preparing meals and keep an eye on young children at the same time.

Many extensions are driven by lifestyle choices, for example needing an office or workshop at home, a games room, or a garden room. With a well-designed garden room or conservatory you can break down the barrier between the garden and house and get the benefit of the garden when the weather's not so good. You should also look at your storage areas. Places where boxes or bags of clothes, toys and other personal effects can show you where more space is needed.

Plot Restrictions

Of course, all these ideas need to be tempered by what's possible with the layout of your house and plot, and your finances. If you have, for example, a terraced house with no access to the garden except through the house, then you are very likely to be restricted to a rectangular box tacked onto the back of the house, perhaps double storey if your neighbours don’t object to any loss of light.

With a semi-detached or detached house then there are obviously more options. Depending on local planning restrictions and your neighbours, you may be able to extend to the side or back, or both, and if you have an integral garage, then you may have the option to build over it, or convert it to living space and build another garage elsewhere on the property.

Reach for the Sky

One point to bear in mind is that if you can manage a double height extension, it is unlikely to be twice the price of a single-storey, as a lot of the price goes on the roof, particularly if it's a pitched roof. So it is well worth considering getting quotes for two storeys as well as one, as you may be able to double the amount of extra space for a cost increase that's nowhere near double.

Bear in mind also that, with house prices in the UK being controlled to some extent by the number of bedrooms, adding another bedroom, perhaps with an en-suite bathroom too, can significantly boost the value of your home in a way that adding a dining room won't, even though it might cost the same.

Finance and Architects

Finance is, for most people, a limiting factor that will mean that what they can afford will fall short of their dreams. There may be shortcuts that you can take by doing some of the work yourself rather than paying people to do all of it, or rope in friends and family with the right qualifications and experience. It's not a good idea to take short cuts in quality, as that will show and lower the value when it comes to selling the property on.

Once you've assessed your needs, it may well be worthwhile asking an architect to look at you space and your needs, as they may well come up with new ideas that wouldn’t have occurred to you.

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